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Workplace Harassment

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About Workplace Harassment
Workplace harassment occurs when someone in the workplace harasses, alarms or distresses another person with his or her behaviour.
What Is Workplace Harassment

Workplace harassment occurs when a co-worker, manager or any other person at the workplace (e.g. a customer, contractor or volunteer) harasses, alarms or distresses another person with his or her behaviour. It may also pose a risk to the victim's safety and health.

Forms of harassment include but are not limited to:
  • Threatening, abusive or insulting language or non-verbal gestures
  • Cyber bullying
  • Sexual harassment
  • Stalking
Harassment can take place in any setting:
  • Outside the office such as on business trips
  • On clients' premises
  • At any other work-related occasions
It can also happen through:
  • Email
  • Text messaging
  • Social media

View the “Managing Workplace Harassment” video here.

Preventing and Managing Workplace Harassment
What is workplace harassment and how to prevent and manage it.
Why Managing and Preventing Workplace Harassment Is Important

You are legally obligated to keep your workplaces safe for employees by preventing and managing workplace harassment. You can also be held responsible for acts of harassment committed by your employees, as long as they occur in your workplace. Harassment within or outside the workplace may be an offence under the Protection from Harassment Act (POHA).

Note: Enacted in 2014, the POHA protects people from harassment and related anti-social behaviours, whether committed in the physical world or online. It also provides a range of civil remedies and criminal sanctions for the victim.

What You Should Do to Prevent Workplace Harassment

You should strive to provide a safe working environment that allows employees to contribute to business results, as workplace harassment can affect morale and productivity. Refer to the Tripartite Advisory on Workplace Harassment for guidance on preventive measures to ensure a safe and conducive workplace. The advisory also recommends proactive management and remedial actions that employers and affected persons can take if harassment occurs at the workplace.

As a responsible employer, you should proactively:

  • Prevent harassment at the workplace
  • Protect your employees
  • Manage the incident properly if it happens

You should also adopt the following progressive employment practices:

Develop a Harassment Prevention Policy

You should develop a policy in consultation with your employees and the union (if your organisation is unionised). You should communicate the policy to all the employees in your organisation through various channels including the employee induction programme, organisation's intranet, human resource handbooks, posters, and employee briefings.

An effective policy should include:
  • A clear statement on zero tolerance for harassment.
  • Management commitment to prevent and respond to harassment.
  • Illustrations and examples of workplace harassment.
  • Avenues for reporting, recourse and assistance.
  • Information on investigation and grievance handling processes.
  • Actions to be taken against harasser.

To obtain a sample copy of a Workplace Harassment Prevention Policy, please email NTUC U Family at ufamily@ntuc.org.sg

Provide Information and Training on Workplace Harassment

Role Required skills and knowledge
Managers, Supervisors and HR personnel
  • Awareness of work risk factors that may result in harassment.
  • Awareness of code of conduct or behaviours that may count as harassment.
  • Potential signs of harassment (e.g. if an employee has trouble focusing on work, becomes less friendly or is often absent).
  • Procedures and measures to prevent harassment, and consequences of not addressing harassment.
  • Grievance handling procedures and conflict management.
  • Investigation and handling of cases.
  • Counselling (support and therapy) for harasser and affected individuals. Professional counsellors can be engaged for this purpose.
All Employees
  • Awareness of work risk factors that may result in harassment.
  • Awareness of behaviours that may count as harassment.
  • Potential signs of harassment (e.g if a co-worker has trouble focusing on work, becomes less friendly or is often absent).
  • Information on how to manage if faced with potential harassment.

You can also protect your employees against harassment from external parties like customers and clients with the following measures:

  • Put up clear and prominent signs to promote respectful behaviour.
  • Indicate that harassment is unacceptable behaviour on your corporate website and big-screen displays on your premises.
  • Increase lighting in and around the workplace.
  • Install closed-circuit television (CCTV).
  • Increase site security inside and outside the building.
  • Control access to your workplace such as with access cards and keys.

Implement Reporting and Response Procedures

You should set up the following procedures to handle harassment issues at work.

Harassment Reporting Line

To provide a safe environment for employees to voice their concerns, you can do the following:

  • Set up anonymous whistle-blowing mechanisms, such as an external hotline. This is so employees can air their grievances without revealing their identity.
  • Have multiple reporting channels, which can include a higher authority or a neutral party if the harasser happens to be the employee's immediate superior.

Investigation Procedures

To set up robust investigation procedures, you can do the following:

  • Keep the identities of the complainant and alleged harasser confidential.
  • Appoint trained neutral parties to investigate each case (e.g. managers).
  • Establish a timeline for investigation and communicate this to all parties.
  • Evaluate the case based on available evidence and determine whether the alleged behaviour constitutes harassment (see "What It Is" above).
  • Provide progress updates and findings to the complainant and alleged harasser.
  • Take corrective actions (e.g. update your harassment prevention policy, remind supervisors and staff on their duties regarding workplace harassment).
  • Provide an avenue for appeals.

Closure

To prevent future occurrences, you should strive to close systemic gaps (e.g. by refining your code of conduct or policies). You can also implement the following procedures to provide closure for both harassers and victims.

  • Harassers: Counsel and monitor the harasser to ensure that the offence is not repeated. You can also re-deploy or relocate the harasser to avoid future conflicts.
  • Victims: Help the victim file a report to the authorities, if needed. You can also provide support for the victim through counselling, additional leave or flexible work arrangements during the investigation and recovery period.

Seek Help From External Organisations

Organisation Services Contact information
TAFEP Advisory services on fair and progressive employment practices and workplace harassment Tel: 6838 0969
Singapore National Employers Federation (SNEF) Advisory services and corporate training programmes on workplace harassment Tel: 6290 7692 or
6827 6927
Email: ir@snef.org.sg
NTUC Advisory services on workplace issues for professionals, managers and executives (PMEs) who are NTUC union members Tel: 6213 8008
Website:U PME Centre
Trauma Recovery and Corporate Solutions (TRaCS) by Changi General Hospital
  • Corporate training, talks and workshops on building human resilience and mental health topics
  • Consultation services to build internal staff support capability
  • On-site crisis support
  • Employee counselling
Tel: 6426 8933
Email:tracs@cgh.com.sg
Catalyse Consulting Corporate training and consultancy Tel: 6779 7137
Email:info@catalyse.sg

For more information on these practices: